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The Origins and Style of Copland’s Mood for Piano, Article Critique Example

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Article Critique

The Origins and Style of Copland’s Mood for Piano No. 3, “Jazzy” by Judith Tick

The above article is a detailed work about Aaron Copland and how he came to write a popular music piece, called “Jazzy.” The article was written by author, Judith Tick.

Judith Tick is a Professor of Music at Northeastern University. She is a foremost authority on American music in general and a leading authority on women in music in particular. She is an award-winning published author who is at the top of her field (NEU 2014). In the above work, in which she writes about composer, Aaron Copland, Judith Tick explores one of composer Aaron Copland’s works by introducing the reader to who he is and how he came to be a composer, as well as a breakdown of the intricacies of his work, Mood for Piano with a piano piece called “Jazzy.” The author highlights Mr. Copland’s love for music as a child and how this transformed his ability to compose with “the vicissitudes of reception” and “the resonance of deeper aesthetic values” (Tick 2002:277).

The most important point the author makes in this article is the fact that Copland proved that music was not absolute, but open to interpretation and a product of a person’s own essence, which is influenced by that person’s interests, abilities, passions, and life experiences. I agree with the notion the author puts forth in making this point, as I believe that music is art and all art is universal because it speaks to each individual according to personal influences.

With the main point of the article in mind, it is evident that the author does a thorough job of describing how Copland’s interests, abilities, passions, and life experiences allowed him to pick up on how music affects the American spirit, and refers to his music interest as popular, even before George Gershwin. In addition, Copland’s ability was critically assessed as keeping up with American vernacular, which was evident in the name of his piece, “Jazzy.” This was referred to as enduring art with a level of sophistication (Tick 2002). This is an interesting interpretation, as it implies the music piece, as art, is everlasting and able to reach people in different times with ageless class.

What is “Jazzy” exactly?

Judith Tick describes this piece as “an obscure work” and the “third of a set of Three Moods for piano.” It is miniature of piano and it is approximately two and a half minutes long. The piece has contrasting moods as well as contrasting keys, tempos, and themes (Tick 2002:278). Ms. Tick goes into great detail about how Mr. Copland’s ability to capture the listener and evoke various moods and thoughts and how Mr. Copland’s work is a believable comparison to that of composers, George Gershwin and Walter Donaldson. Additionally, the author touches on how Copland pieced together “Jazzy” from remarkable moments in his life and developed the piece from a group of shorter works he had done in France. The author further explains how “Jazzy” was as much a part of Copland’s existence as other aspects of his life and that the piece is “filled with biographical drama” (Tick 2002:279), as evident in both public and private performances of the piece throughout Copland’s music career. Tick explains that “Jazzy’s” biographical background stems from Copland’s musical adolescence. She writes about how Copland’s two sisters helped him understand different rhythms of the mid-1910s, as “Jazzy” “reflects the most significant innovative dance of his youth” (Tick 2002:281). This is interesting to note, as it shows how Copland’s childhood offered experiences that would someday be worked into this great piece of musical art. This is an excellent technique used by Tick, as it ties back into the main point mentioned above, because it gives an overview of how Copland’s musical mind developed in part from his childhood experiences and his relationships with his sisters.

The author further describes how Copland’s interest in music was influenced by popular music of the day that was played on the upright piano and he eventually began showing influences from pop and jazz in his music practices, again showing how his life experiences came together to help him compose “Jazzy”. Additionally, the author describes how Copland used two jazz melodies in “Jazzy” that borrowed from Tin Pan Alley son idioms developed after 1911, as well as Ragtime Band. To illustrate this, Judith Tick includes the sheet music to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” by Irving Berlin and “Oh, Joe, With Your Fiddle and Bow (You Stole My Heart Away),” by William Tracey and Walter Donaldson, and compares it to Aaron Copland’s, “Jazzy” for which she included the sheet music as well. Author Tick, does a thorough job of going well into depth about the comparisons of Copland’s music to that of other well-known composers and the art of music that was influenced by Jazz during that time. She also goes in-depth about Copland’s ability to handle various complicated rhythm styles and vernacular and states the piece “has the double-edged perspective that was to become a signature attitude for Copland in his adaptations and borrowings of vernacular sources and practices” (Tick 2002:292).

Strengths and Weaknesses of this Article

Although Tick does an excellent job at thoroughness in describing details about Copland’s journey to becoming a gifted musician as well as details about music composition itself, the article is somewhat over the reader’s head on some levels, as it pertains to reading music and understand music sheet symbols and jargon. This sometimes renders the article a bit boring in some spots. She also goes somewhat off course with spending so much time on the works of people other than Aaron Copland. However, Tick is an excellent writer and the general writing style comes across very clear and it is evident that a great deal of research went into structuring the article. The article gives a thorough overview of the intricacies of music during the Copland era and how it often coincided with life such as comparing a music piece called “My Buddy” to events connected to World War I. This particular piece was re-versioned by Copland.

The scholarly value of the article is impressive, as the author uses ample citations references to develop the article. She uses both primary and secondary sources to add value to the validity of the article This includes thorough research on Copland’s biographical information that includes varied sources on his piece, “Jazzy.” She also uses one of Copland’s 1921 letters to his parents sourced from the Library of Congress. Additionally, she sources an original performance program from a 1921 concert in which Copland participated, as well as original music scores of sheet music. Tick also uses information from other reputable sources, including a 2000 telephone interview with Copland and Ellen Donaldson. This is definitely a strong point of this article, which are the validity, credibility and scholarly nature of the author’s sources.

Conclusion

Author Judith Tick has shown in this article that Copland had deep origins in music that inspired him to write “Jazzy,” which was born of his innocence in his youth and grew from his talent, ambition, passion and drive. In addition, she focuses on Copland’s ability to embrace “idiomatic particulars of vernacular music within his evolving modernist style” (Tick 2002:293). This is something that helped Copland create his style of music and develop his personality in the music realm, which allowed him to “bend” music into his own versions, which gave his works their unique sound, according to Tick. She also stated that “Jazzy” was a forerunner to Copland’s later great works, which is interesting to know, as it shows that Copland’s musical influences continued to stem from his experiences and that his music continued evolving.

Tick’s writing about “Jazzy” is well-written, which is evidenced by the fact that she is very thorough in her descriptions and she has used credible primary sources such as direct quotes from Copland and original sheet music to illustrate points. In addition, Tick shows no bias in her writing, but does convey plenty of objectivity in the way she presents the work. These factors demonstrate scholarly attributes of reviewing literature such as “Jazzy”(CGU 2008). In addition, as a contributor to the Journal of the Society for American Music (JSAM), Ms. Tick adhered to the editorial policies put forth by JSAM, which peer-reviews and features scholarly works to include in the journal(JSAM 2012).

Bibliography

NEU. Judith Tick, PhD. 2014. http://www.northeastern.edu/camd/music/people/judith-tick/ (accessed September 13, 2014).

Tick, Judith. “The Origins and Style of Copland’s “Mood for Piano” No. 3, “Jazzy”.” American Music (University of Illinois Press) 20, no. 3 (Autumn 2002): 277-296.

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